Psychedelic integration is the process through which an individual makes sense of experiences, visions, and insights gathered during a psychedelic journey in an effort to integrate them into one's own life to support growth, healing, and positive change.
Psychedelic experiences involve altered states of consciousness which can be both confronting and affirmative, traumatizing and healing, confusing and informative. The distinction is often explored in psychedelic integration sessions with a seasoned facilitator or trained professional.
Psychedelic experiences can be disorienting to both the mind and the body; a comprehensive integration process addresses both of these important aspects in the weeks following a psychedelic experience.
While many individuals experience little to no disruption to their physical functions following a psychedelic experience, some participants experience varying degrees of insomnia, loss of appetite, fatigue, difficulty focusing, anxiety, disorientation, and mood swings. In a large majority of cases, these symptoms resolve with a combination of gentle movement, somatic practices, supplemental and dietary interventions, and rest; rarely lasting more than 3-5 days.
The cognitive aspects of the integrative process are considerably more complex to synthesize, take longer to integrate, and are often non-linear with new information and insights often surfacing weeks or months after an experience. The purpose of cognitive integration is to support the individual in dissecting and framing the often intense visual, sensory, and cognitive experiences of a psychedelic journey through a lens that supports positive insights and lifestyle changes.
It might be tempting to ignore, deny, or minimize difficult psychedelic experiences and hope they are forgotten, however, it is only in the acknowledgment, recognition, and processing of such experiences that lasting positive change occurs. It is not the psychedelic experience itself that is a catalyst for transformation and healing, but rather the integrative process that follows. Much like receiving an intensive training, a psychedelic experience can be packed with life-changing insights and perspectives but if these insights are not integrated into the individual's day-to-day life, they are neither helpful nor sustainable.
On the opposite end of the spectrum of challenging psychedelic experiences are enchanting, energizing, and ecstatic psychedelic experiences which require just as much integration as the former. Psychedelic experiences can often present profoundly heart-opening experiences which although pleasant when experienced, can develop into a destabilizing force. For example, an individual that experiences love and connection with all beings during a journey might experience deep despair and depression upon return to ordinary life where that perspective is not shared or nurtured by the structures of their personal lives or the society as a whole.
While professional integration is required by law for all psychedelic-assisted therapy frameworks, ceremonial and recreational use are unfortunately rarely properly integrated if at all. Depending on the type of psychedelic medicine, setting, dosage, and the individual's physical and mental health, and level of experience, an individual might be qualified to follow a basic integrative framework - often involving journaling, meditation, stillness, and time in nature - to synthesize their own experience.
Supported integration is strongly recommended in the following cases:
First-time psychedelic users
Following a disorienting or challenging experience
Working with potent entheogens like ayahuasca, DMT, 5meo-DMT, and iboga
Following a high dosage psychedelic experience of any kind
Individuals with a history of mental illness (self or immediate family)
Individuals with a history of trauma
Individuals with a history of addiction
Individuals with a terminal illness
Individuals moving through a grief process
Individuals experiencing physical, emotional, or mental challenges after the experience
Supported integration can be facilitated by a professional integration facilitator, experienced and professionally trained plant medicine facilitator, or somatic therapists, expressive arts therapists, Jungian psychologists, and mindfulness masters with a long track record of psychedelic education or practice.
As psychedelic research continues to affirm the profoundly healing qualities of plant medicines, local decriminalization legislations are passed across the US, and the stigma around psychedelic use begins to dissolve, integration becomes more imperative than ever before. Psychedelic plant lovers and advocates have a profoundly critical task at hand; to continue to highlight and promote the medicinal and therapeutic qualities of plant medicines while advocating harm reduction, safety, and a conscious approach. Simply put, the future of psychedelic medicines is dependent on our ability to provide proper integrative processes and containers to improve efficacy, reduce harm, and inspire advocacy.
Seeking supported psychedelic integration? Microdose Guru is a long-term psychedelic integration facilitator and trained somatic therapist. Click here to schedule a free consultation.